Windows Restore Points

Give yourself some protection against newly installed software breaking your computer

Turn the Clock BackA client phoned me this morning with problems with his internet connection and with the connections between the devices on his local network (computers, cameras, etc). He was fairly sure that the problems started after he installed a particular piece of software a couple of days ago. He needed help to get back to where he was before he installed it.

The first thing we wanted to do was connect using “Teamviewer” so that I could see and control his computer. Because of the nature of the problem we couldn’t get a connection, so we then disconnected his computer from his router and he connected to the internet using his iPhone as a “mobile hotspot”. That worked. As always in cases like this, the first thing I did was to go to “Programs and Features” in the Control Panel and sort the items by “installed date”. We could then easily identify the two items in question and so uninstalled them.

System Restore logoThat seemed to be the only thng that had changed, but we thought it prudent to see if we could use “restore points” to ensure that we had taken his computer back to how it looked before he installed the suspect programs.

As it happens, his computer was configured to create such “restore points” but, for some reason, there were none available. That’s a bit concerning, but for our purposes we just need to know that he could have ensured that such a restore point existed before installing the dodgy program by manually creating one. I know what you are thinking: if he’d known it was dodgy before installing it he wouldn’t have installed it. That is true, but he could have created a restore point just to be on the safe side. A lot of program installation procedures will automatically start with restore points being created just in case something goes wrong, and you can always create one manually just to be a bit more safe.

It is easy to turn this feature on and use it, as follows:

System Protection Settings

  • Click on the Windows Start button and type in “restore point” (without the quotes)
  • Click on “Create a restore point”
  • A window will open with several tabs across the top. Click on the one labelled “System protection” (see image above)
  • Look in the box beneath “Protection settings”. If protection is set to “off” for the drive marked with “C:”, click on the “Configure” button and click in the circle next to “Turn on system protection”. You may have more than one drive listed, but you only need to turn on protection for the C: drive in most circumstances
  • Click on “OK” and then check that system protection is marked as being “on”
  • While you are here, create a restore point by clicking on “create”
  • Type in a description that reminds you why you created this restore point (eg “before installing dodgy.exe” or “just to be sure 26/8/20”)
  • Click on the “Create” button and then just close all the open windows when you are told that the restore point has been created

If something goes wrong and you would like to “turn the clock back”, you can now go back into System Restore (the same way as you did to create the restore point), but this time click on “System restore” and choose which restore point to go back to. It is advisable to always go back to the most recent restore point as all changes to the system from the date and time of that restore point onwards will be removed by the system restore process. This proedure does not harm any of your data (eg emails, Word documents). They will still be present after executing a system restore.

And did we solve my clients problem? Yes – uninstalling the problematic programs did the trick, but it would have been nice to have the option to “do a system restore” as well.

(Last updated 09/07/2021)